By Tom Masters
An Aylesbury rugby player was front and centre of an innovative clash of the titans contest featuring England legends James Haskell and Mike Tindall.
Alex Inglis featured alongside Tindall, a 2003 World Cup champion, and 77-cap international Haskell – hosts of ‘The Good, The Bad & The Rugby’ podcast – in a match that marked the latest event in the RFU’s ‘Play Together, Stay Together’ campaign.
For those looking to get back into the sport, whether it’s been a few months, or a couple of years due to the pandemic, the RFU has a wide range of resources to help players as part of the ‘Play Together, Stay Together’ campaign, supported by The National Lottery.
The decorated duo were joined by Phil Vickery, Tom Wood, Matt Banahan, Lee Mears and Delon Armitage, with the thrilling clash under the lights ending in a nail-biting 36-36 draw as Tindall scored the final levelling try.
The match saw Tindall and Haskell play alongside amateur players - and it was an opportunity that is unlikely to be forgotten anytime soon.
— England Rugby (@EnglandRugby) October 20, 2022
Inglis, who was awarded Player of the Match, said: “For once, I’m speechless.
“Just playing rugby in front of a big crowd with my home club, it’s a boyhood dream. It really is.
“I don’t get to play as much as I used to anymore, so when I get to come down to play I just enjoy every minute. I just wanted to make sure I enjoyed every minute of it and some of these players coming down were brilliant, it really helped.
“When you have a long time away from it is really important. Playing together with people from all different clubs, all different backgrounds, all different abilities, it’s really lovely. That’s what the rugby community is all about.”
And perhaps few are as well-placed as club member Mike Phillips, who played in the match, to highlight the importance of community rugby.
Phillips drifted away from the sport a few years ago, but when he and his wife moved to Aylesbury he decided to return to the game - and has never looked back.
He said: “I was last playing in about 2014, I fell out of love with the game.
“When I moved up here I then got back involved with the rugby community and just coming down on a Saturday, coming down on a Tuesday and Thursday after work with the boys, you can’t buy that.
“I’d implore anyone who played and stopped to come back and hang around, because the camaraderie is amazing.
“Playing together and staying together is really the main thing. I’ve reconnected with some of my mates who I played Under-13 and Under-14s with and it just so happened that Aylesbury got promoted up, and now I’m playing some of my mates I haven’t played since inter-form rugby.
“It’s brought us back together. When my mates' teams come up, we’ll be playing together on the pitch and also staying together afterwards.”
The RFU’s Play Together, Stay Together campaign is aimed at reminding rugby fans of all the benefits that come with playing rugby. Whether it’s the physical benefits of regaining your fitness, or the mental benefits of being surrounded by a like-minded group of people, there’s always a reason to head back to your local club.